Oak King Holly King – Cover Reveal!

At long last, the hour has arrived to reveal the cover art for Oak King Holly King!

Oak King Holly King is a gay Victorian fae romance, blending the genres of historical and fantasy to create a spellbinding adventure. It comes out February 14th, 2022, and you can preorder it on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo!

Shrike, the Butcher of Blackthorn, is a legendary warrior of the fae realms. When he wins a tournament in the Court of the Silver Wheel, its queen names him her Oak King – a figurehead destined to die in a ritual duel to invoke the change of seasons. Shrike is determined to survive. Even if it means he must put his heart as well as his life into a mere mortal’s hands.

Wren Lofthouse, a London clerk, has long ago resigned himself to a life of tedium and given up his fanciful dreams. When a medieval-looking brute arrives at his office to murmur of destiny, he’s inclined to think his old enemies are playing an elaborate prank. Still, he can’t help feeling intrigued by the bizarre-yet-handsome stranger and his fantastical ramblings, whose presence stirs up emotions Wren has tried to lock away in the withered husk of his heart.

As Shrike whisks Wren away to a world of Wild Hunts and arcane rites, Wren is freed from the repression of Victorian society. But both the fae and mortal realms prove treacherous to their growing bond. Wren and Shrike must fight side-by-side to see who will claim victory – Oak King or Holly King.

The cover was painted by Jan of Thistle Arts Studio. You’ve seen his work before on the cover redesign for Mr Warren’s Profession. He’s an immensely talented artist and a delight to work with. I was so excited to see his interpretation of our protagonists, Shrike and Wren, and I must say he exceeded expectations.

The cover design was done by Kelley of Sleepy Fox Studio. You’ve seen her work before on Mr Warren’s Profession, Hold Fast, and The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall. Her eye for design is unparalleled and I’m always delighted with her work.

Without further ado, let’s see that cover!

Continue reading “Oak King Holly King – Cover Reveal!”

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale!

Smashwords is having their site-wide Summer/Winter Sale – which includes all my books!

Now through July 31st, all of my books are 25% off. Click any of the book images above to be taken directly to the Smashwords sales page. It’s an exciting opportunity to complete your collection and snatch up romantic reads at a steal!

Thanks for reading!

New Cover Reveal! Mr Warren’s Profession

     “It took some time for me to bring myself to try reading just a sample of this novel. The reason being, the cover page is so awful and ugly. The art work is just totally off-putting. It’s as if the publisher deliberately is trying to turn off readers. HOWEVER, the novel is wonderfully written. It is such an unexpected surprise that I would unequivocally recommend this novel to all.”
               — J Kevin Barry

     “It is a really great book. Disregard the cover and try it. […] I wouldn’t be the first to the mention the cover. I accept it has a quaintness, but I am not partial to to the artwork. I didn’t like it before reading the story, and as such, went into this not expecting much from the story other than a light read. Instead, I was totally charmed.”
               — Reflection

     “like i thought the cover looked kinda goofy so i was a little reluctant to start, but i’m so glad i trusted the premise and got started on it because i got totally hooked and binged most of it in two days.”
               — The Knights Who Say Book

     “Ignore the Cover, Read the Book! This is a book which I passed by several times because of the cover.”
              — Bo

     “I will say though that i nearly did not read it. shallow as I am, the book cover was not appealing. just goes to show, never judge a book by its cover…or something like that…”
              — Patdbooks

     “I thought the cover was a bit off putting – Mr Warren looks like an unattractive gnome!”
                — Sally

     “Although others like the cover art, I found it distracting because both men are supposedly far more attractive than this is.”
               — Rhode

     “Truth be told – DON’T judge this book by its cover! […] I rather like the cover art and understand why it’s used, but I add the disclaimer at the beginning of this review because I can imagine (perhaps in error) that some potential readers might interpret the style as frivolous, too old-school, as indicating that the book is a parody or even conservative.”
                — R E

     “This book first attracted my attention when I saw it ‘compared’ (associated?) with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I love that book and the idea of an m/m version of it was so intriguing, that not even Mr Warren’s Profession’s cover could dissuade me from giving this a try.”
               — Elena

     “Terrible cover, great book.”
              — Jane Harper

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when so many otherwise positive reviews mention how much they hate the book’s cover, the author might do well to consider changing it.

Mr Warren’s Profession is my first published novel. When I sent it out into the world, I knew absolutely nothing about cover design. I think that much is evident from the typography. I did it myself, and boy howdy, it shows. (Note to Sebastian of the past: adding a white drop shadow will not fix black text over a black top hat.)

mr_warrens_profession

And so, in the hopes that readers might be able to recommend the book without a cover caveat, I contacted two talented professionals to help fix the issue.

The first, Jann of Thistle Arts Studio, is a fantastic painter. You can see further examples of his work on his Instagram, Patreon, and Etsy. (Warning: NSFW!) You’ll see more of it when Oak King Holly King is finally released. But for now, he has created a brand new cover painting for Mr Warren’s Profession.

The second, Kelley of Sleepy Fox Studios, is a mastermind of cover composition and typography. You’ve already seen her work on the cover for Hold Fast, which received a quiet redesign about a year ago. You’ll see it again when Oak King Holly King is finally released, and you’ll see it very shortly on the brand new cover design for Mr Warren’s Profession.

And now, without further ado: the new cover. I do hope you approve, and that Aubrey and Lindsey are finally as handsome in pictures as they are in words.

Continue reading “New Cover Reveal! Mr Warren’s Profession”

“A Happy Ending Was Imperative”; what romance means for the LGBT+

“A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write otherwise.”

— E. M. Forster, Maurice, Terminal Note

Romance as a genre has two simple prerequisites. First, that the central plot of the story must revolve around a romantic relationship. Second, it must have a happy ending—at least happy-for-now, if not happily-ever-after.

These two prerequisites are absent from most fiction about the LGBT community.

Mainstream LGBT fiction, particularly literary fiction and YA fiction, is often praised for its “realism.” “Realism,” in this case, is code for “ends badly.” (For more on the realism of HEAs in historical romance specifically, please check out KJ Charles’s excellent post, Historical Romance: Who Gets the HEA.)

In the best case scenario, if a LGBT couple exists at all, they will break up before the end of the story. In the more common scenario, at least one of the LGBT characters dies. TVTropes calls this phenomenon “Bury Your Gays”—and yes, it happens often enough to have a trope name all its own.

E. M. Forster observed this phenomenon as well in his Terminal Note to Maurice. Maurice is a novel with a very simple story; a man who is attracted to men falls in love with a particular man and they live happily ever after. Though Forster began writing the novel in 1913 and finished it 1914, by the time he wrote its Terminal Note in 1960 it remained unpublished and unread by all except a few of his close friends. The reason for this, in his own words, is the happy ending—his motivation for writing the book in the first place.

While the United Kingdom rolled back the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 (changing the punishment to mere life imprisonment), the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 expanded the crime of homosexuality to include any “indecent acts” between men—with an absurdly low burden of proof. Every token of affection between men was now punishable by two years of hard labor in prison.

Homosexuality remained a criminal offense in the United Kingdom until 1967—seven years after E. M. Forster wrote the Terminal Note for Maurice. Maurice itself wasn’t published until after the author’s death in 1971. Because of the legal status of homosexuality in England at that time, no publisher would touch Maurice before then, even though its author had already produced such literary feats as A Room with a View and A Passage to India.

Or, in E. M. Forster’s own words:

“If it ended unhappily, with a lad dangling from a noose or with a suicide pact, all would be well, for there is no pornography or seduction of minors. But the lovers get away unpunished and consequently recommend crime. […] the only penalty society exacts is an exile they gladly embrace.”

On the few occasions that LGBT characters exist in fiction, they are even more rarely the heroes. Throughout the 20th century they were most often cast as villains, with a trend towards comic-relief sidekick at both the beginning and end of that century, if they appeared at all. Their romance, assuming it exists in-text and is not merely divulged through the author’s Twitter post-publication, is by no means central to the story, may be easily deleted for homophobic markets, and has little to no effect on the character’s life, much less the plot.

Only recently—and by “recently,” I mean “within the last five years,” has the tide begun to turn.

The romance genre helps turn this tide. After all, a romantic relationship must be the core of a romance novel. If one writes a gay romance, one cannot merely hint that the heroes are romantically interested in each other. It must be readily apparent to the reader, otherwise there is no story.

Likewise, a romance must have a happy ending. Therefore, if we continue with our example of a gay romance, neither hero can die at the end. Nor can they deny they ever felt any attraction to each other. They cannot break up. They cannot commit suicide. They must continue on living together in romantic bliss—or, as E. M. Forster put it,

“I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”

And, despite ongoing persecution from the outside world, there is a great wealth of historical evidence in favor of LGBT happily-ever-afters.

Edward Carpenter and George Merrill, for example, were not only life partners but gay rights activists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Neither man went to prison for “indecent acts,” despite their living together as a couple deeply in love—possibly they escaped such persecution due to their self-imposed exile from society on their shared farm. They were together for 37 years, from their first meeting in 1891 until George Merrill’s death in 1928. It is their real-life love story that inspired E. M. Forster to write Maurice—and Forster’s longing, as a gay man, for a happily-ever-after of his own that demanded Maurice end in the same bliss.

Much like Forster, I don’t see the point in writing if I can’t give my protagonists a happy ending.

My personal goal, as an author, is to keep writing happily-ever-afters for LGBT characters until their number equals all the LGBT tragedies and all the straight happily-ever-afters combined.

I recognize that this is an unlikely goal, and so will content myself with writing until my hands fall off.

~

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Rhode Island Romance Writers monthly newsletter.

 

Sunday snippet, 6.23.19

BANNER_sm_3-TheHauntingofHeatherhurstHall

From The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall, a Gothic romance rife with horror and heartache, wherein an American heiress makes an ill-advised marriage to bring herself closer the woman who’s stolen her heart.

~

Trouble was, Kit mused as she wandered the winding corridors of Heatherhurst Hall, the circumstances most conducive to ghosts were least conducive to photography. Ghosts required midnight storms with howling winds and guttering candles. Photographs required brightest daylight, or, lacking cooperation from the weather, ignited magnesium. But even with chemical assistance, unless she had enough luck to time the snap of the shutter precisely with the flash of the lightning, any photograph she attempted to take in a storm would turn out as black as thunderclouds.

Still, perhaps a ghost or two might be brave enough to come out into the sunshine.

~

The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall comes out July 1st, 2019! Pre-order today!

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Sunday snippet, 6.16.19

BANNER_sm_3-TheHauntingofHeatherhurstHall

From The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall, a Gothic romance rife with horror and heartache, wherein an American heiress makes an ill-advised marriage to bring herself closer the woman who’s stolen her heart.

~

There remained a great resemblance between the Cranbrook siblings. The same raven-black hair, the same thick brows, the same sharp cheekbones and hawkish nose.

But Sir Vivian did not have his sister’s lips.

Kit withheld a wince as his thin, dry mouth pressed against hers. Any attempt on her part to encourage a deeper connection rolled off his lips like water off an oilskin. Still, he lingered. Seconds ticked past as the so-called kiss continued, uncomfortable, awkward, and, worst of all, boring.

At last Sir Vivian pulled away. Kit watched his face to discover what he thought of it. If his placid smile were any indication, he’d enjoyed it far more than she had

Kit, meanwhile, was still waiting to feel the spark of the love between husband and wife that would supersede any connexion she felt with another woman.

She waited in vain.

~

The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall comes out July 1st, 2019! Pre-order today!

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Sunday snippet, 6.9.19

BANNER_sm_3-TheHauntingofHeatherhurstHall

From The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall, a Gothic romance rife with horror and heartache, wherein an American heiress makes an ill-advised marriage to bring herself closer the woman who’s stolen her heart.

~

Then, as if in a dream, Sir Vivian’s face transposed entirely with Alexandra’s, and Kit imagined she was dancing not with the baronet, but with his sister.

And for the first time in months, Kit felt a flutter of happiness.

The moment she realized what had occurred, she shook her head to clear her confused senses, but the damage was done. She couldn’t look upon Sir Vivian without seeing Alexandra. Worse still, she wasn’t sure she minded.

~

The Haunting of Heatherhurst Hall comes out July 9th, 2019! Pre-order today!

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